For decades now, handsets and hardware have ruled the telephony world, so much so that for most organisations, they’ve become a staple of the office. “In our experience, even when the UK went into national lockdown and organisations were operating fully remotely, around 60% of employees still had a handset at home”, explains Matt Dudleston, Sales Director at Opus. “That’s almost non-existent now, not just in terms of remote working but even in the office.”
Matt speaks with prospects and customers every day to help them understand their business objectives and identify which solutions will get them there. Right now, the hybrid working model and its impact on traditional telephony are right at the top of their priorities.
How has hybrid working challenged the systems we use to speak with one another? How is this impacting our colleagues and customers — and how can your organisation adapt?
What is the ‘new normal’ for businesses post-COVID-19? To find out more, download our free ebook.
As you might expect from solutions traditionally dependent on handsets and hardware, the sudden shift to fully remote working challenged the way many organisations made use of their existing telephony systems almost overnight.
“We’ve spoken with numerous businesses who set up multiple VPNs (virtual private networks) in response, only for those networks to fail halfway through the working day”, explains Ben Murphy, Sales Manager at Opus. “In one case, when the networks dropped, newly remote workers were no longer able to link up with the organisation’s phone system. Their entire contact centre was out of action for three days while that was being fixed.”
Workarounds like the VPNs described above enabled businesses to adapt (with varying degrees of success) in the short-term, but as Matt goes on to highlight, the challenges raised by long-term hybrid working practices run deeper and require more permanent solutions.
“One challenge when adopting hybrid working practices is providing the right technology to enable your staff to work in the same way, whether they’re at home or in the office”, Matt explains. “We’re seeing businesses get halfway there, in terms of embracing softphones, but that poses challenges of its own. Remote workers’ environments vary hugely and many won’t always need to wear a headset. Even if they do, some will be wired while others will be air-pods. When they return to the office, the technology they are used to using at home may not be appropriate, leading to a lack of standardisation and potentially poor call quality.”
The drive to make sure people can work as effectively in the office as they can at home is crucial because otherwise employees will experience frustration at the challenges around, for example, background noise and the use of headsets/room systems. When this happens, the perception becomes that they will work better from home. Businesses going back into the office need that to be a really good experience, rather than a challenging one.
“If I was to summarise the challenges traditional telephony systems face right now,” Ben adds, “I’d say it was around flexibility. Looking at the remote — and now the hybrid — working solutions we have successfully implemented for our customers over the last 12 months, that’s the key takeaway in terms of how organisations are adapting their telecommunications for these new working practices, as well as one of the biggest wins for this newer style of working.”
What steps can you take to achieve this within your own organisation?
Hybrid working telephony solutions
The most successful telephony solutions offer one distinct advantage in the age of hybrid working in that they support complete collaboration across video, IM and conferencing suites.
“Look at the 8x8 platform”, Ben comments. “It integrates its messaging into its conferencing with the softphone and the virtual office. 8x8 and other solutions providers in this area, are offering all of this collaboration technology under one suite, giving businesses all the core applications they need to adapt and stay current, supported by updates as they come out.”
For organisations dependent on a range of multiple tools around a traditional telephony system, none of which integrates with the CRM, upgrading to a fully integrated telephony solution can drive business transformation — as well as an opportunity to reduce costs.
“If you look at the costs of maintaining a telephone system over a period of five years, and having to pay for all your extras to keep that software updated, compared to the software updates and products included as part of the virtual suites available now, you’ll see just how much your organisation could be saving.”
For Matt, the key to successful hybrid working is being able to work effectively from anywhere without technical challenges. As he explains it, the changing telephony ecosystem really highlights that.
“The businesses we have seen moving to a hybrid working model ahead of the curve are the ones that have really thought about what they want the end-user to be able to achieve. When it comes down to it, that's around working effectively from anywhere without technology implications. One example is having room systems in place so employees can collaborate effectively when half of them are office-based and half of them are remote. They have taken a standardised approach to headsets and other hardware, regardless of where their staff are based, and a clear stance on how teams will work effectively in a busy office environment. They have thought about the flexibility of the softphone but also the need for headsets and other hardware that enable them to work the same way in that hybrid world.”
Businesses seeking to adapt their telephony environment around hybrid working practices need to make sure they are considering these points. As the UK continues down the path out of lockdown, more and more employees are returning to the office, putting these issues front and centre before they begin to impact communications and customer experience. If you’re unsure where to start or are looking for guidance from a specialist that has implemented many of these steps within their own organisation, Opus can help.
“We have gone on the same journey as many of our prospects and customers, so we understand the challenges they are facing”, Matt explains. “As an example of what we have done to solve them, all our meeting rooms have been set up in line with a new collaboration room system. Each room falls into a different category depending on its size and function, making them ideally suited to different meeting types. That varies from our boardroom, which can seat 40 people and delivers a really good experience in that environment, to a meeting room optimised for four to six people holding smaller, more informal huddles. As a result, our clients can come to us and actually experience the same processes and technologies we might end up recommending they use. You can see the flexibility that’s available and that it's not one technology type in use everywhere. You’ll see the choice each end-user has.”
If the telephony challenges we’ve described in this article have hit home, we’d welcome the opportunity to chat through your business objectives and how we can help you to get there. Telephony is one of our core competencies, so we are expertly placed to help you solve these challenges, whether they are technology-based, strategic, or a combination of both.
What is your vision for hybrid working and general working practices going forwards?
What do your end-users need to be able to do through the platform?
How do your existing telephony solutions help or hinder this?
The answers to these questions will differ dramatically from one business to another. What organisations mean by hybrid working models may look very different. By taking the time to understand how your business operates, we can provide the right telephony solutions to help you facilitate hybrid working and working from anywhere, in any manner.
“It comes back to understanding your strategy and what you want to achieve from your telephony system. To put it another way, what's the outlook you want to give to your customers and partners when they call in? How can you prevent some of the issues you are currently having and better utilise your tools to enhance the experience from start to finish?
To find out more about adapting to the hybrid working model, click the image below to download our free guide to the new normal for business during and post COVID-19.